Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

Problems solved

Friday morning I got an account established with Maersk Logistics and I filed the necessary paperwork to allow them to clear my shipment at customs. I was impressed at how on top of things their staff seems to be. They advised me of some corrections needed in the shipping invoice to reduce the risk of being held up at customs, and kept me informed about the status of FDA notification, the anticipated schedule fo transport, and so on. By 6:45 pm I got a confirmation email that the shipment was on its way and they provided an ETA.

Yesterday afternoon in the mail I received a copy of the Chinese newspaper which is carrying my ad. They seem to have given me complimentary spot color... they just decided on areas that they thought should be highlighted. I hope the ad reaches the right audience.

In the afternoon I met with Patrick at the Queen Mary tea shop and restaurant a short stretch from University Village. We tried what turned out to be a green tea from an all-organic Taiwanese farm I met with in Japan, and a moderately fragrant oolong recently added to Queen Mary's collection. I think I wasn't expecting a green tea, since my poor Japanese ability led me to believe all of the products the Taiwanese farm sells are oolongs. Since I haven't consumed a lot of Chinese-style green tea, and since the two teas were so different from each other, I found it hard to compare the two. The tea, called “four seasons-spring,“ was much different in character than any Japanese green teas that I drink.

The actual oolong from Queen Mary's was nice, but a little tannic for my taste and, although much better than average oolong, not quite as fragrant as the one I tried at FoodEx. I'll have to break out the two teas actually labeled oolong to find out if I can reproduce the quality of the ones I tasted when I was at the trade show.

In the evening I met with a Korean woman who is interested in helping me out with the summer festival event, and seems like she'd be a good addition. Long term, she may also be helpful in doing some web design and web marketing for Yuzu Trading Co, as that's close to what her day job is. It turns out she also knows some people that I am connected with, including two people at Azuma Gallery and also Eugene, the MyGreenTea guy. I'm starting to think that Eugene knows everybody...

I was incredibly tired last night because of my relative lack of sleep, and found myself driving back from Bellevue to Seattle in pretty bad shape. I still stayed up a little bit later, which was probably not very smart, but somehow driving that short stretch made me a little wired. Today I'm doing very little work, and I am not doing anything actively leisure-like... just decompressing.

So that's what "logistics nightmare" means

The last three days I've been struggling with my air freight service, Yamato Transport, as they've managed to royally mess up the shipment of my dragon beard candy. They failed to arrange service on June 30 because of China Airlines had some reluctance to handle food shipments to the U.S., and they didn't arrange a backup in time to ship that day, and didn't inform my supplier of the problem until the air cargo offices were closed for the day. July 1, of course, happened to be a public holiday in Hong Kong, and so I heard zero news from Yamato yesterday until evening, when my supplier and I started beating up the Yamato Hong Kong office by telephone and email. By 11 pm here, or about 3 pm Hong Kong time, Yamato had finally gotten some sort of arrangement, but they had been so slow to inform us about what was going on that we didn't trust them to complete the shipment successfully anymore.

Yamato, once they got arrangements confirmed, also neglected to follow my instructions to get the product here as directly as possible, instead trying to route the cargo through Los Angeles and truck it up to Seattle. Since Monday, July 5 is a public holiday in the United States, customs clearance would be unlikely to be complete until at least Wednesday. That means, if all went smoothly, the product would be in my hands on Friday, which is one day before the street fair where I'm debuting the product.

So last night, Dragon Rich, the dragon beard candy maker in Hong Kong, contacted their usual freight forwarder, Maersk, to seek another freight arrangement option in parallel, and by 3 AM Seattle time had made arrangements to transport to Vancouver, BC by air, most likely on Saturday morning Hong Kong time. It should only take four hours or so for the surface transport from Vancouver, so customs clearance on Monday or Tuesday should be the end point of the critical path instead of another two days of surface transport. My supplier's diligence about arranging an alternative was truly impressive and they took some financial risks on my behalf, which I really appreciate.

I dozed off a couple of times between 1 am and 3 am, but around 3:30 or so I was finally able to sleep after the marketing manager in Singapore had clarified the most important details. I got about 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep, but at least I have some confidence that my shipment will get here in time.

All of the advertisements were ready to go on Tuesday and some publicity was arranged. On Wednesday, the Northwest Asian Weekly asked me to bring them some other photos for a story they were running, so I went down there and took some product shots. The newspaper came out Thursday morning. It turns out the story is very similar to my press release, so it was kind of a funny experience reading it.

Getting the publicity machine started

Sunday I spent time working on publicity and advertising details. My designer was struggling to finish up some image manipulation and final layout tweaks, and I got to work on a little press release.

Over the course of the day a number of little complications kept reminding me how incredibly tight time is. Somehow, though, I managed to sneak out at night to watch Michael Moore's movie with my overworked designer and my friend Amelia.

Most of the day today I spent finalizing shipment details and contract arrangements, as well as arranging to get ads ready for the papers that are going to press soon, This afternoon I did my best to make the publicity section on the Yuzu Trading Co. web site presentable, and I tried to make a dent in the work on the dragonbeardcandy.com web site. Online ordering isn't quite ready but at least it won't be blank if people start looking at it when the ads come out.

By early evening, my designer was still struggling to arrange delivery of the ads to the four newspapers that we're working with, so I went over to try to find a way to get them delivered in time. After a long series of technical battles with software, email servers, ftp servers, and even fax machines and printers, we finally got business concluded and we went off to eat some dinner around 8:30 or so.

We stopped at Galerias on Broadway I had vegetal enchiladas con mole poblano, which were better than the last time I ordered the same dish a good year or so ago... not too sweet, pleasantly spicy. Jennifer had some crab-stuffed tortillas and ended up feeling stuffed herself. The most important thing after all of the chaos was to have a celebratory margarita, so mine was a “patron” and Jennifer's was a frozen strawberry.

I'm a little tired now, but I think Tuesday will be a little easier, assuming my shipment gets sent off from Hong Kong according to plan.

The results are in

Somehow all of the running around last week kept me from actually writing any updates or even reflecting on what was happening.

Most everything went reasonably well. I chatted with the attorney I mentioned last week, and learned some useful things. I was able to get a verbal agreement with a manager of a local specialty market (to remain nameless for now) to carry my Dragon Beard candy.

Dinner at Patrick's was pleasant... I brought by a hijiki dish with renkon, snow peas, and fresh soramame (fava beans), as well as a kind of nimono with morels, lion's mane mushrooms, and baby bok choy; Naoko, Patrick's wife, made a vegetarian curry and a tomato salad. Afterward we collaborated on dessert, with some gyokuro-cha from Patrick's cabinet and some homemade quince infused liqueur (karin-shu) that I brought, and some strawberry-basil-yuzu sorbet that I made served with some nice fresh figs from Naoko's kitchen. We ended up watching a 1952 Japanese film called Ochazuke no aji, mostly for the title's hint of a food theme... It was kind of like watching a movie adaptation of a Jane Austen novel set in Japan.

On Friday I ate at Carmelita with Kazue and a visitor from China, which was nice but the food was somehow disappointing to me. I usually really appreciate their generally sappari approach to food, but some things were less than memorable this time. After Tony's work schedule settled down, he met us for drinks at Sambar, which after two visits is probably now my favorite little Seattle cocktail place. I don't consider myself much of a drinker, but even the non-alcoholic house drinks there are something special; the vibe is also very nifty... very understated; the typically accidental hipness of Ballard.

Over the weekend I visited the obligatory Fremont Fair and Solstice Parade. Living in Fremont makes failure to attend inexcusable, as it would be an awful waste of free parking... Anyway, the fair was appropriately cathartic; it was also, as could probably be expected in an election year with Republicans in power and going to war, slightly more politicized than the last one I attended. The inflatable effigies were clever.

This week I really have to catch up on my web retail site, and I also have an urgent need to complete a few other errands like setting up my credit card merchant services in time for the street fair. If all goes well, I'll make some progress on those things and still go out and make a couple of small sales calls.

I like to think "busy" and "productive" are related

On Sunday I actually took most of the day "off", in the sense that I didn't have a business agenda until I started reading email at night.

During the day, I stopped at my pottery lab to try to pick up the last bits of work from this quarter. A couple of recently glaze pots were ready, but are nothing to write home about. A ceramic "train" that I made was still on the greenware shelves, waiting to be bisque-fired. I suppose it will be ready next week. I don't plan to take the class this summer due to the demands of my business interests and, to be honest, due to the fact that I enjoy taking advantage of summer weekends, whether that means running to meet customers, networking, or jogging in the good weather.

In the afternoon, I met with a friend who had expressed some interest in promoting soaps from Japan. We chatted about different things and then I decided to stop by my grandparents' house. Along the way, I bought some stuffed figs from Fran's Chocolates in old Bellevue.

In the evening I tried to follow up with some outstanding concerns I have related to my project to import a Hong Kong sweet. I've mentioned the candy here before... the big secret that I haven't mentioned is what it's called... it's called dragon beard candy, and it's made with thousands of strands of pulled sugar and maltose. In fact, it normally only has a 15-30 minute lifespan after it's made. The version I found is high quality, beautifully packaged, and has a reasonable shelf-life. I will be the first, or at least one of the first, people to import this into the United States. Work related to this ended up keeping me later than I planned.

Today I met with a couple of banks. Alas, in spite of all of my running around a month or so ago in attempt to pick a bank, I still didn't pick one. I must do that this week. I made an appointment to talk with one of them a little bit more tomorrow.

By the end of workday (by the standards of the alternate universe that is the 9-6 world) I had made a bunch of appointments for the rest of the week. I'm meeting with a friend of a friend tomorrow who can introduce me to some people I should be talking to. I'm having dinner later midweek with Patrick, whom I've mentioned recently. Thursday, I'm meeting with a candidate to help me out for sales of dragon beard candy, meeting a friend visiting from China, and having a conversation with a manager at a local specialty supermarket. I'm also having dinner with a tech entrepreneur, Tony, whom I've mentioned before, mostly to catch up on things. One of these evenings I think I'm meeting with an acquaintance of mine from back in the day when I worked at the Northwest Asian Weekly. I should have Wednesday morning open to run errands.

In any event, this will be a busy week. One thing I learned at Microsoft was that busy doesn't always mean productive... I think, though, that everything I'm planning to do this week is valuable in one way or another. Everything looks like progress, so far.

Pursuing my passions

After years of working a well-paid, challenging, and ostensibly prestigious job which was often interesting, occasionally satisfying, but rarely fulfilling, I’ve decided to move on.

I have three obsessions that I’ve indulged outside of work for the last 7 years or so. One is an uncompromising passion for cooking and eating good food. Another is a love of travel. And third is a wallet-thinning habit of collecting Japanese and Korean ceramics and craftwork. Beyond that, I have a long-neglected impulse to write and create, which, most likely due to excessive comfort over these 7 years, rather than inadequate time, I have mostly failed to pursue and develop.

My goal over the next few years is to explore each of these passions with an eye for making a reasonable living doing the things I love the most.

This is a life-altering transformation. My job at Microsoft, working as a test lead in software internationalization, has allowed me to live comfortably while I regularly invested at least 20% of my income. Now, for the first time in years, I expect many months during which I’ll be slowly eating away at my reserves.

My plan for the next year is to take advantage of my safety net while taking a lot of personal risks. I've established a small business entity focused on importing foods, gifts, and other things that I am excited about.

I’ll travel, but with the objective of generating some kind of return from each trip, either in a financial sense or in the sense of personal growth. I'll be exploiting my ceramics obsession by buying ceramics and craftwork, but with the intent of using my eye to bring back items that could be introduced to the U.S. market for resale. I’ll also at least occasionally be working in restaurants as a cook and waiter and whatever else will teach me what it will take to make a successful business serving food. I expect that I’ll create some opportunities to write and to create again. Within a few years I intend to have established enough of a network to be ready to start a small café/restaurant, and on the way, I will focus on building up my import/export business.

This journal is the document of my transformation.

At least once a week, I’ll be telling part of my story. I intend to be pathologically honest, but I promise to do my best to avoid sentimentality, wistfulness, or excessive self-indulgence. I don’t promise to be authoritative, profound, or even important. But I do promise, more than anything else, to live.

Coffee in Seattle

Coffee is an intensely personal beverage. Everyone has a distinctive story about how they were introduced to the pleasures (or displeasure) of coffee.

I didn't really enjoy coffee until I started to experience good quality coffee. In college I experimented occasionally with aromatized coffees (which I won't touch now), organic Kona, Starbucks, and so on; I used to brew coffee in a cafetiere in my dorm room, and usually beat the quality of what I could find at shops in the rural town where I studied. I've become demanding, but for me, the essentials are: freshly roasted beans, an appropriate roast for the drink in question, and quality of control over the brewing/espressing process. Producers of coffee always emphasize how important the beans are, which is true, but overstated in the present market; in the specialty coffee market, the beans are almost always decent quality in the green state; it's mostly a question of the roast and the actual production. I'm even happy with better-quality robusta beans in blends, which U.S. producers turn their nose up at, but which Italians rely on for extra crema; Vietnamese coffee, too, generally uses some robusta beans.


Vivace's Roasteria (Broadway & Denny Way) and the red-awning covered sidewalk bar down the street are the understated stars of the Seattle espresso scene. When it comes to pouring espresso, David Schomer has the greatest obsession for detail of anyone in Seattle and probably nearly anywhere else. Here, you will find no 24-ounce gut-busting monstrosities of milk with incidental discoloration from charred beans. You'll find short and tall options for milky drinks made with their Seattle-style Vita blend, and you'll get a different, more mellow northern-Italian style "Dolce" blend for straight or sugared espresso. Both are made to exacting specifications with beans that were roasted probably no more than 3 days ago, with hyper-modified espresso machines that, while still operated manually, have modified boilers and thermostats that precisely regulate the temperature to +/- 0.2°F (0.1°C). Vivace's roasts are more complex than what you would find at Starbucks or other chain stores, mostly because of the freshness  and particularly because the roasts are not overwhelmingly carbon-like. The freshness of the beans, which are ground to order, and the temperature control, manifest themselves as a flawless cup of espresso with beautiful crema; should you be inclined to order a milky drink, the presentation features a trademark milk-foam rosetta which may appear as a leaf pattern, a spade, a heart, or other shape depending on the whim of the barista, and is created solely through careful pouring of the milk foam. Schomer's mission is to make espresso taste as good as it smells, and by putting his disciples through a vigorous training regimen, maintaining careful technical controls, and constantly working on new methods of refining the minutiae of the lifecycle of coffee, Schomer has made Vivace's the gold standard for espresso.

Victrola. 411 15th Avenue East, Seattle. I don't live anywhere near this part of Capitol Hill, but the atmosphere in Victrola, combined with the quite respectable coffee, draw me in when I'm in the neighborhood. One of my customers in Phinney Ridge, Fresh Flours, uses their beans with great aplomb, so I no longer need to trek too far from my Fremont home to get it. And they blog!

Icon Coffee. 43rd & Fremont, Seattle. My preferred standby, mostly because it's very professionally made and it's in my 'hood. All organic coffee from Fiori (Vita), made smartly and with above average service.

Caffe Ladro (various locations in Seattle). Nearly every time I find myself in Caffe Ladro, I am lured by the Medici, a mocha enhanced with some freshly-cut zest of orange. It's certainly not their invention, but they do it well, and they are one of the few places to find the drink in Seattle. Ladro serves shade-grown, organic coffee, and the quality is above average and the attention to detail (milk foam patterns, ground-to-order beans) is nearly on par with Vivace's, without as much visible affectation of the obsession for engineering precision.

Uptown Espresso now has various locations, but I've been to the one in Queen Anne, and of late, nearly weekly at their Belltown shop. I have limited experience with the coffee here, but the latte is nice. Their signature feature is a particularly velvety foam. The roast is a little dark, so straight espresso is a bit more bitter than at other places.

Dilettante on Broadway (only this location) is a chocolatier. The espresso quality itself doesn't stand out in any particular way, but is quite respectable and provides the perfect foil for Dilettante's signature Ephemere truffle sauce, and accordingly, some of the nicest mochas in town. For the over-21 crowd, you may also go for the hot "schmocha", a mocha with the  Ephemere truffle sauce and a respectable dose of peppermint schnapps. The schmocha is too sweet for me, but they also have a milkshake version if you'd like to have coffee in your dessert.

Victor's Coffee (downtown Redmond) also roasts its own beans, and has as its signature style a deeply roasted blend which, while not quite charred like most of the chain brews, is more aggressive than the Vivace's style roast. The mostly-wood interior features old church pews and sturdy wood chairs and tables. The crowd is young suburban kids, high-tech workers, and the occasional grandmother; accordingly, the signature drinks tend to be sugary syrup-based flavored lattes. The Irish Nudge, Mandarin Mocha, and the Roca Mocha are worth trying, but I recommend ordering any of the above "light on the sweet stuff." It's open later than most independent coffee shops on the east side (until about 10pm on weekends).

Lighthouse Cafe in Fremont (43rd & Phinney). Somehow, the coffee tastes a little different every time I come here. sometimes the roast brings out a lovely caramel aroma, other times it's a little more bitter. It is, however, nearly always good; I've only had one bad coffee here. I live nearly next door, so if you're in the neighborhood, buzz me and I might join you for your buzz.


Caffe Coccinella in downtown Bellevue, on 10th Ave. between 102nd and Bellevue Way, uses Vivace's Caffe Vita blend. The atmosphere is surprisingly pleasant, considering the location is in a neighborhood otherwise full of bland corporate concepts. Free wireless internet makes this an essential downtown Bellevue stop when I'm doing some work on the Eastside.

Zoka near Greenlake has good enough espresso drinks, and a pleasant atmosphere. If you're in the neighborhood, it's worth stopping by.

Triple J Cafe (Kirkland) has the art of inoffensiveness down; I remember having a decent latte or two here. It's also a cute little place to sit down and relax.

Should you find yourself in the mood for corporate coffee, Torrefazione is one of the better chain-style coffee shops. It's now a wholly owned subsidiary of Starbucks, purchased from the franchising conglomerate AEC Enterprises in 2003. Alas, it's on the chopping block, as it was only moderately profitable, not spectacularly profitable, as

Not Recommended

I've encountered a series of places with metallic tasting espresso, most likely due to inadequately cleaned equipment. Still Life in Fremont. If it was just a question of atmosphere, I would wholeheartedly endorse the comfy environs of Still Life. (Still Life has recently closed and opened under another name, apparently under the ownership of the person who bought the place about 2 years ago; noted 19 May 2004). I would definitely go there for food or maybe pastries. But the espresso drinks in my experience were metallic tasting or unpleasantly bitter, suggesting that they don't take care of their equipment very well. I had the same problem at Uncle Elizabeth's (First Hill). I sampled a passable drip coffee here once, but Uncle Elizabeth's needs to aggressively clean their espresso machines.

Tully's. The "Charbucks" moniker serves Tully's even better than it does the ubiquitous company it was meant to slam. I can't figure out the appeal of Tully's, but the shops are usually strategically located next to other Starbucks locations, so one can tell their real estate and facilities planning team is reasonably good at following someone else's lead.

Coincidental charcoal and old friends

The last time I saw my friend Sakurako, who was an exchange student while I attended my first year of school at DePauw University, was just before Christmas in 1998 when I visited Japan for the first time. I have been in touch with her occasionally by email, but she had been hard to reach recently. She actually lives in Hyogo prefecture near Osaka, and I had the good fortune to get an email message from her on Monday. She said it would be a little hard to meet in Osaka on Tuesday because she was preparing for a business trip to Tokyo, but since I happened to be going back to Tokyo anyway, we made arrangements for lunch today.

My friend Michiko and I already had a plan to go to some wholesale markets today, so actually I just adjusted the plan so that the three of us would meet for lunch. Anyway, I was happy to see Sakurako after so many years.

The wholesale area Michiko and I went to afterward seemed to be focused on apparel, and it was too late to get much out of going to the area in Tokyo famous for restaurant supply shops, so we abandoned the effort and went to Ginza.

And then, the most unexpected chain of events happened. After looking around at some ceramics and house wares at Mitsukoshi department store, we ran into someone with a display area on the same floor selling all sorts of Japanese charcoal (sumi or bincho) products. Michiko started asking him some questions and told him about my trading company. He’s actually the owner of the small company that has various charcoal products on display at the department store, and he sort of tours different Mitsukoshi locations to show off his products. (I’ll call him Takeshi-san for convenience here, but it’s not his real name). Takeshi-san invited us to join him for a coffee break, and we actually got some wholesale prices after I showed him my cost structures and estimated retail customer requirements.

We did some back-of-the-envelope calculations and then he said that we should meet for dinner to talk about things a little more. I have very little time before I leave Japan and I had plans for tomorrow, so he cleared his calendar for tonight and I made a last-minute cancellation with Hiromi. (Hiromi wasn’t very happy, but she told me I should have the meeting). We arranged to meet about an hour and a half later.

He took us to a sushi place nearby where he has apparently enough of a regular that he has a reserved bottle of imo-shochu (sweet potato vodka) on hand. He arranged for some vegetarian options for sushi, which were all very sappari and very different from vegetarian attempts at sushi I’ve seen at US Japanese restaurants… the rice was seasoned substantially more subtly and even with simple pickle maki zushi the flavor was very carefully considered.

We talked a lot about prices, product details, and so on, after a reasonable amount of small talk. Michiko actually did most of the talking, as I had a difficult time following Takeshi’s Japanese. I’m sure it was very standard, but somehow I couldn’t keep up… maybe the presence of another Japanese who seemed to have sufficient translation skills made him avoid dumbing-down what he wanted to say, and made me a little more brain-dead. Anyway, he said he would work with me as long as Michiko gets some percentage; he said that he felt she was very trustworthy.

Actually after dinner he extended the discussion to a little more drinking at a somewhat exclusive-looking jazz bar (Michiko and I had simple iced oolong tea and he continued drinking); most of the clients are salary men and are entertained by a single waitress sitting between them. I think we’re the only table without such entertainment (not appropriate in mixed company) and also the one table where the bar’s owner came and spent a substantial amount of time talking to Takeshi and occasionally to us. He spoke in a very familiar way to the staff of both places we visited.

He was generous to what for me are unusual extremes… he even paid for our train tickets home and he accompanied me as far as we were continuing in the same direction. Anyway, tomorrow we’re expected to go and meet him at the department store again to arrange for delivery of some product samples.

Osaka diversion

Sachi and I planned to meet briefly after work today, so I checked out and left my baggage with the hotel. I went to Osaka during the daytime, mostly wandering around Umeda without much of a real objective, even as a tourist. A Korean import/export company representative whom I had hoped to meet in Osaka still hasn’t responded to a mail I sent last week, so I didn’t have much of a business agenda anyway.

I ended up eating at an Italian place for lunch where they had a conspicuous sign in Japanese saying they could cater to customers with allergies, which I took as a sign that my vegetarian habit could be indulged. It turns out that the Japanese mushroom pizza that I ordered doesn’t have anything non-vegetarian in it anyway, and the salad and bread weren’t anything to worry about either. The food was simple and pleasant, though basically unmemorable.

My favorite thing to do when in shopping districts is observing the foods being hawked in department store basements (depa-chika). This proved the most interesting part of the day. I can’t say there were many differences from department stores anywhere else in Japan, but one stand specialized entirely in “curry bread”, in this case a slightly fancier, fresher version of a long-lived staple of Japanese bakeries. The department store experience is somehow a little more welcoming than in Tokyo… somehow the heavy Kansai accents and gravelly voices of the men and warmer, less formal sound of the women hawking various wares makes the energy of the place seem more sincere. Or maybe I’m imagining all of that.

Somewhere I stopped for a maccha-white chocolate cake and maccha ole.

Unfortunately, my friend Sachi got stuck with some overtime work today so our hopes to meet for an hour or so before I ran off to the airport were dashed. After finding the cafe where she suggested we could meet if she was able to escape, I searched for something more substantial, and finally found an Indian/Pakistani restaurant near the station which I hadn’t noticed in previous wandering. The place was completely devoid of customers, but I had one of the nicest palak paneer (or saag paneer) dishes I’ve yet tasted in Japan.

I arrived just about midnight at my dodgy hotel in Yokohama. The room is incredibly small… I think there are never more than 12 inches of space to put my feet. It’s noisy, my cell phone doesn’t seem to stay connected longer than 45 seconds, so completing plans with a friend I’m meeting tomorrow has become complicated… and I am incredibly sleepy and now a little irritable, but I guess it’s just a place to sleep.

Touring Wakayama

The lack of sleep caught up with me. I got out of bed around 5am again only to realize that the only motivation for that was to turn off the alarm clock on my cell phone, which was reprising yesterday’s schedule. I slept another 3 hours or so.

After that I exchanged several email messages with various companies, though I wasn’t able to read a few price sheets that I had asked for since I was unable to open PDF or Word attachments on the hotel business center computers. I guess I’ll look at them Tuesday night or Wednesday sometime.

My major accomplishment as a tourist today was walking through the rain up to Wakayama castle. The grounds for the castle are about 20 minutes from my hotel on foot, and it takes another 10 minutes or so to climb the hill. Inside the castle, the reconstructed interior features institutional tile flooring and various exhibits of historical relics. Most of the artifacts on display are the usual military attire, weaponry and old maps. Usually I look forward to seeing some pottery in such venues, but in this case, there wasn’t much to see; just some roof tiles and the like.

Sachi had previously planned to go to a piano concert which was, unfortunately, sold out, so I didn’t meet her until after I had a small meal at a barely occupied chain izakaya called Iroha, located near my hotel. At Iroha, I had a stone bowl bibimbap, some mochi-mochi-camembert-potato-age, edamame, and some yuzu-infused shochu.

Of course, Sachi was hungry after the concert, so I ended up joining her for a second meal at a more interesting place that she knows. We had some rice croquettes with various seasonings, and some salad-stuffed raw spring rolls with a sort of Caesar dressing, age-dashi-doufu, and a little dessert. The dessert is called Nostradamus, and we ordered it solely because of the name; we didn’t know what was in it until we ordered. It was basically a parfait composed of various ingredients that Japanese expect in parfaits, served with a sparkler and a little bowl of diffusing dry ice in water, intended for a fog effect.

We stayed past our welcome at the restaurant and Sachi dropped me off at my hotel, making arrangements to meet briefly tomorrow before I head to the airport.

Hiromi called me and we chatted a little bit about my trip and about our plans for the next few days.

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